Friday, August 10, 2012

Reshape the network for private, public and hybrid cloud traffic

In this post, IDC’s David Senf revisits a theme previously explored in the whitepaper, Getting the Network Ready for Cloud in Canada.

Idling on roads snarled with rush-hour traffic, just like waiting on a slow company network, can test your patience to the limit. Aging infrastructure and outdated networks also have costly consequences, especially as the needs of your community — its traffic patterns — change or even expand exponentially. The solution is the same for both: planning.

Thankfully, planning for change in your network architecture and systems isn’t as hamstrung as what urban planners contend with when trying to solve street congestion. And a top driver of network change today is cloud. It is growing six times faster than the overall IT market. If you haven’t already started, it’s time to start planning – and developing your roadmap – for evolving your network in the context of different cloud models. There are three foundational (and, at times, overlapping) cloud models to consider when architecting the future of your network:
  • Private cloud. In the data centre, you need to plan for shared infrastructure available through self-service (either for business units or within IT itself), otherwise known as private cloud. Network traffic patterns are going to change as a result. Traditionally, traffic flow has been oriented north-south along a traditional three-tier network (e.g.: core, aggregation and access). Increasingly, heavily virtualized environments with higher levels of server-to-server VM mobility don’t follow this established traffic direction. Instead of north-south orientation, traffic patterns rotate decidedly an east-west flow between servers. The north-south network architecture inherited from client-server doesn’t hold up well under a highly virtualized private cloud. Consider a flatter network that supports this change in traffic flow. Plan, too, for the continued shift of typical network admin tasks to the VM admin.
  • Public cloud. You will become more concerned with your ability to manage the traffic or capabilities required for particular workloads.  Moreover, you will find that certain extremely taxing periods of your business cycle require your organization to build a world-class system that remains underutilized the rest of the time. Better to offload that kind of unpredictable and variable traffic to a system of highways so large, no one customer can possibly exhaust it.  When you require 40 lanes of traffic, hit the proverbial toll road (aka subscription).  When you need ultra high speed delivery with low latency, pay a premium for a shortcut. Then, dial it all back and return to business as usual once the stress returns to normal levels, as your traditional infrastructure continues to chug along with your constant day to day traffic pattern.
  • Hybrid cloud. In the distant future public cloud and private cloud capacity will be well-balanced. But for the next five years, at least, hybrid cloud will be more appropriately linked to bursting. Optimizing network traffic takes on renewed importance – otherwise you’ll need to over-provision for peak loads. Back to the (hopefully not yet overdone) city traffic analogy, it’d be akin to the start time of the work day varying. Rush hour can happen anytime. Commuter traffic into the city and back out again would be less predictable – chaos would appear and diminish as quickly as it came.
Reshaping your network to meet cloud traffic demand (and avoid rage) takes planning – and time. Make the commitment to ‘borrow’ time from all of your daily tasks to set a plan in motion. After all, the better planned your roadmap is, the easier it will be to get your company in the fast lane to the future of cloud.